As soon as director Neil Burger yells “cut!,” Winslet employs the container for another use â€” as a fan on the stifling set of Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, which has broken air conditioners. As she flaps, she reveals that the case also disguises a baby bump â€” she announced in early June that she’s having her third child, the first with husband Ned Rocknroll.
“I’m holding up fine. I’m pregnant, but it’s not at the point where it becomes impossible,” says Winslet, 37, relaxing at a conference table with bags of nearly melted ice on her feet. “Sometimes you just have to roll with it.”
That’s just what Winslet does in the pivotal role of Jeanine Matthews in the film adaptation (out March 21) of the first novel in Veronica Roth’s best-selling Divergent trilogy.
Jeanine is the protector of a futuristic dystopian society based in Chicago, in which the population is divided into five factions. As the leader of the Erudite, or intelligent group, Jeanine is also the story’s antagonist.
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Winslet’s character adopts a positively chilly demeanor when she meets hero Tris Prior (The Descendants’ Shailene Woodley) and her family in a scene depicting the day Tris will choose her faction.
“That’s the whole point of Jeanine,” Winslet says. “She walks down the corridor and sort of just leaves this vapor trail. I knew I had to bring that intimidation.”
The role gives the Oscar winner (best actress for 2008’s The Reader) the opportunity to play her first screen villain.
“I’m no idiot. The idea went through my head that I have never played a baddie before,” she says. “I was almost kind of surprised.”
The pregnancy helped maintain the intimidation factor, since Winslet came into the shoot late. She used that distance from her co-stars to her advantage by keeping herself slightly aloof initially.
“I wanted to break it and say, ‘It’s OK, I’m really fun. I promise.’ ” she says. “But I thought, just for today, I’d let them think that I am a complete bitch.”